"We’ve always been very big dreamers," Mau y Ricky explain in the opening of their just-released Artists on the Rise feature. "For us, it’s always been clear we want to be the No. 1 artist in the world. Not just Latin America, not just Venezuela—the world. Our whole life has kind of been preparation for this moment.”
That moment might just be the release of their long-awaited debut LP “Para Aventuras y Curiosidades,” which finds the duo continuing to expand the global fan base they have worked so hard to build. Thanks to Latin-pop crossover hits, like “Mi Mala,” “Ya No Tiene Novio” and “Desconocidos” Mau & Ricky — aka brothers Mauricio and Ricardo Montaner — already have multiple Grammy nominations under their belt along with numerous entries in the YouTube Global Top Songs charts. All told, the brothers have earned over 1.4 billion views on YouTube over the last 12 months, with daily views this year reaching as high as 8.6 million.
The ongoing success and recent full-length debut have made the duo one of the year's most exciting music stories — and an obvious choice for YouTube's next Artist on the Rise. “YouTube is a dreaming tool. We feel like it’s our way to picture what we want to do, and use as references for what we’d like in the future,” the duo explains. “We have worked so hard for so many years that when something as big as YouTube decides they want to be part of building that dream even further, it’s crazy to us!”
In a way, Mau & Ricky were destined for the global stage from birth. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and raised in Miami, the duo are the sons of legendary Venezuelan pop crooner Ricardo Montaner, who instilled a love for music in his children from an early age. The brothers spent their childhood immersed in their father’s musical world, exploring his home recording studio, experimenting with his equipment and in eventually honing their craft alongside him on stage.
“When I was 7 years old I opened the first shows for my dad — you can actually see it on YouTube” Ricky recalls. “I would come in, walk in with a tux, sit down at the piano —it was terrible! I screw up a bunch of times, grab the mic and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, mi papa!’ He’d walk out, give me a kiss, send me off and then the show would start.”
The two eventually toured with their father’s band — Mau playing drums and Ricky the guitar — before launching MR, a project rooted in their mutual childhood love of alternative rock anthems and singer-songwriter ballads. “MR was a learning process,” Ricky explains of the brothers’ first duo. “We’d go out onstage and there wouldn’t be as many people as you’d hoped.”
Along with MR, the brothers also dabbled in songwriting, penning tracks for both Latin upstarts and superstars. Early songwriting clients included the likes of Mexican pop phenom Thalía, who scored a hit in her home country with Ricky’s composition, “Por Lo Que Reste de Vida.” Then in 2016, they caught their first big international break when they earned credits on Ricky Martin and Maluma’s 2016 smash “Vente Pa’ Ca.” “It was the first huge hit song for us,” Ricky said. “We got nominated for a Grammy. It opened a lot of doors for us as songwriters.”
The success of “Vente Pa’ Ca” inspired the brothers to rethink the approach to their own music. Ditching their old rock-band set-up, they rebranded themselves as Mau y Ricky and started to experiment with more contemporary club sounds. After bringing hit-making Puerto Rican producer Tainy into the fold—and wrangling a guest feature from Colombian singer Karol G during a chance meeting in the Santo Domingo airport—Mau y Ricky leapt to the forefront of the Latin-pop revolution with “Mi Mala.”
“‘Mi Mala’ was the first song we ever wrote thinking about ourselves inside this universe of urban, reggaeton music,” says Mau. “To be honest, we were scared to try it—we had written all these songs with urban influences for other people, but we didn’t want to try it ourselves, I don’t know why.”
“We were used to singing ballads,” Ricky adds, “so stepping outside your comfort zone sometimes is the answer to success.”
As the viral ubiquity of their videos demonstrate, it was by stepping outside of that comfort zone that the duo truly found their voice — and their audience. But even as their music takes them far from home and closer to their dream of international dominance, Mau y Ricky will never forget where they come from.
“Thanks to this spotlight, we’re able to spread the message of Venezuela and let people know what’s happening in our country,” Ricky explains. “We’re always grabbing onto the flag and saying, ‘We come from Venezuela, and there’s not just bad news coming from Venezuela, and all these corrupt politicians that you hear about.’ Because despite all that, people still fall in love over there. That’s our overall message.”